No. 268: "Pyramid Power"

No. 268: "Pyramid Power"

No. 268: "Pyramid Power"

Testing your knowledge of what happened this week
July 1 1999 3:00 AM

No. 268: "Pyramid Power"

Today a 180-nation conference is to present the U.N. General Assembly with an action plan to reduce world population growth by employing the Cairo Strategy. Which is what?

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Send your answer by noon ET Thursday to newsquiz@slate.com.

Tuesday's Question (No. 267)--"You Be the Playwright":

I set the stage for a script based on an actual current event.

Setting: The courtyard of a monastery in Florence.

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Prop: A briefcase containing $50 million.

Female Lead: KAETHE, a young Russian woman wearing hot pants and a bikini top.

Male Lead: FATHER CHRISTOPHER, a priest wearing something priestly.

Question: What is the opening line of dialogue?

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"KAETHE: Daddy!"--Floyd Elliot

"FATHER CHRISTOPHER: You know, Kaethe, even though you are my sister, and this money was legitimately inherited from our parents, and I'm giving it to you in order that you may pay for a lifesaving sweat-gland-transplant, which will finally enable you to dress properly, I'd bet, to an outsider, this whole scene would look awfully fishy."--Tim Carvell

"KAETHE (Offering the briefcase): NOW can you ordain me?"--Justin Warner

"KAETHE: Father Christopher, your parish does not need more scandal. Therefore, no, I will not tell you where I bought the hot pants."--Merrill Markoe (Justin Warner had a similar answer.)

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"FATHER CHRISTOPHER (ripping off his mask): Ah ha! It is not Father Christopher, but I, Bill Clinton! And here are my plans to invest the budget surplus of ... $1 trillion!

KAETHE (ripping off her mask): Not so fast! For neither am I a comely Russian woman but rather Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss. And we are interested in deeds not words!"--Daniel Radosh

Click for more answers.

Randy's Wrap-Up

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I'm no computer-porn sex-phone perversity expert--well, not professionally--but the sex-crazed priest and the Russian seductress seem an unlikely match. Father Sexpot is a stock character going back to Rabelais, to The Canterbury Tales, and why not? If you're going to have chastity, you're going to have jokes about the power of sex to overthrow that ludicrous vow. Everyone enjoys a good hypocrite joke, and everyone likes sex. (Note to Ben and Jerry: Humping Monk ice cream?)

Even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Red Hot Menace was not entirely persuasive. Ursula Andress made an unconvincing Kremlin honey trap for Sean Connery in an early Bond movie. (Unconvincing as a Russian; pretty persuasive as an object of desire.) But at least when those two had sex across ideological lines they played out the traditional drama of Eros as an anarchic force, tempting Bond from his vows of capitalism.

The post-Soviet seductress is unconvincing in a new way. This way: hot pants? Who wears hot pants? Nobody wears hot pants. Hot pants and money. What she's really showing off is all that creamy cash. This isn't sex as the irresistible life force that mocks and demolishes vows of chastity; it's sex as consumer good. It's the kind of thing Donald Trump would find appealing. It's profoundly conservative. I don't know who Satan has doing his hiring, but no way you're going to take down Father Christopher like that.

Massive Insurance Fraud Answer

KAETHE: I've just flown in on the Concorde, Father, in these tiny shorts with this huge bag of money. Want some?

Or something like that. Kaethe Schuchter, an agent for reclusive swindler Martin Frankel, flew to Italy to offer Father Christopher a $50 million contribution to his Genesis Center if the priest would use the charity to buy insurance companies on behalf of David Rosse, one of Frankel's aliases. The priest rebuffed her. The briefcase, by the way, was metaphoric; the money was to come from mysterious off-shore accounts.

Frankel's scam, involving prominent lawyers, businessmen, and church officials, has siphoned off more than $300 million. Federal authorities have issued a warrant for his arrest.

Wild West/Wild Weasel Extra

Today in New York City, Will Smith's summer blockbuster opens, and a new list of outlawed pets takes effect. Below, a comparison of the newly taboo ferret and the just released Wild Wild West.

Ferret: Member of weasel family.

WWW: Product of Warner Bros.

Ferret: Frightening features include powerful scent glands and razor sharp teeth.

WWW: Frightening features include Kevin Kline in a corset.

Ferret: New law calls them part of a group that is "wild, ferocious, fierce, dangerous, or naturally inclined to do harm."

WWW: Some guy on Fox TV that nobody ever heard of calls it "the hippest, funniest action movie of the summer."

Ferret: Fear of ferrets derived from misleading predator clichés.

WWW: Role of co-star Bai Ling derived from creepy racist Asian clichés.

Ferret: Piranhas are not in this restricted class.

WWW: Piranhas are not in Wild Wild West.

Ferret: "You have a ridiculous, biased and skewered view of this animal," said one angry ferret fancier.

WWW: He has a "knowing, newly hunky presence," said one lovesick Will Smith fancier. And it was Janet Maslin.

Ferret: Last year, there were fewer than a dozen reported ferret bites serious enough to require hospitalization.

WWW: Last year, there were fewer than one reported Will Smith bite serious enough to require hospitalization.

Ferret: "There have been attacks reported nationwide, and those attacks have become notorious for their severity and their capriciousness," said hysterical Giuliani appointee John Gadd, not referring to the NYPD.

WWW: Will Smith gets attacked by some kind of mechanical spider, probably not affiliated with the NYPD.

Ferret: "In Europe people just walk around with them on their shoulders and in little packs! What is this administration going to do next, ban calico cats?" asked some other ferret fancier.

WWW: In Wild Wild West Kenneth Branagh uses a steam-powered wheelchair and a phony baloney Southern accent, which isn't, strictly speaking, a parallel, but does kind of make you sick when you think about how great he was in Henry V.

Ferret: "Ferrets pose a threat when confined indoors," said mayoral spokeswoman Sunny Mindel.

WWW: "Especially when confined indoors at movie theaters," Sunny Mindel did not add.

Eternal Triangle Extra

Andrew Silow-Carroll invites participants to devise a sequentially trumping topical triad along these lines: NATO, Milosevic, Albanian refugees. (NATO planes crush Milosevic, Milosevic drives out refugees, refugees give NATO fits.) Replies due by Thursday morning.

Jon Zerolnick's Headline Haiku

Gay market
Greenspan rule
Washington's urging
Love it.

--Wall Street Journal, June 29 1999

Common Denominator

Concupiscent priests, selling indulgences.